This is the question that plagues most pastors and staff ministers that serve the local church, myself included. I have read many church growth books and listened to the latest expert advice and even the “big-successful” church pastor who all will try tell you how to grow your church. I think in all of this we are missing something essentially important and that is frankly, you and I don’t grow churches! They are grown by God, not humans. Anytime our motivation to grow our churches are about anything other than God then we are in desperate need of spiritual analysis. This then leads to what I would consider the most elementary principle to any church growth model and that is we first must stop trying to grow our churches ourselves and focus on matters that we can control. These other matters are what is listed in the remainder of this article. Let me also say that this is not a church growth model or formula or procedure. It is written from a pastor who has been in the process of pastoring churches and serving the local church, that have large numbers and small numbers, from positions inside and from outside the local church in various types of positions. It is what I would call an honest, convictional and I think non-model for church growth. Furthermore, it is not the only way or right way to grow a church. It simple is the way that I feel led and even convicted to lead the church I pastor to grow, authentically, naturally and genuinely. Which leads to one other caveat, and that is that we need to understand what true biblical church growth is and is not. I do believe churches need to grow, but authentic, natural and genuine growth is what we should be seeking as pastors and church leaders and not just more bodies spectating at our services. That true church growth is about people knowing who they are in Christ, seeking to grow in a deeper understanding of Him and are led to be part of a specific local church because they know that is where God has placed them to fulfil their purpose and mission in life. This includes then being an active participant and supporter of the leadership and ministries of the local church. My fear is that too many churches are defining church membership by just those that attend, which can grossly over estimate true church involvement. It must be understood in the church of today that church membership must be more than where you attend on Sunday or Saturday or on special occasions.
Now with these fundamentals aside let’s talk about the way churches grow.
Have excellence in church programs and activities
The first thing that comes to surface is church health, and whether we understand how important the health of our church effects our ability to grow. If there are organizational divides and unhealthy church programs or oppression of groups within the church the ability to grow will be drastically affected. We need to make sure that we are creating healthy programs and seeking to maintain these programs. Being aware of toxic people that have found their way into the fellowship to distract and destroy what God wants to do. Seeking to honor God in all that we do as a church by striving for excellence in our programs and activities and seeking to be His tools and instruments.
Have genuine community
The next issue for growing the church is to consider the need for community, that is real, genuine, authentic, open and accepting community. This is not the same as having small groups or a small group ministry in the church. Community is one of the defining elements of the local church and what, I believe, is what unchurched people are searching for. How you create this is up to your vision and what processes work for your community. But it cannot just be a program. This is what concerns me about some small group ministries, is that the focus is on a program to meet a perceived need and that is all it is. The problem happens when is no corporate community being built outside of the small groups, and this puts the unchurched visitor at a disadvantage because they are outside looking in. Real community must be a whole church, corporate church goal and not just a compartmentalizing program.
Have real worship
While I struggle with the worship service being the first place that we invite lost friends and neighbors to within our church program, because they can’t understand worship if they don’t know who it is that we worship, I do feel that it is and will always be the door into our church. With that said, I think that worship should be as inclusive as possible, genuine, authentic and pure but also be sensitive to the lost person’s perspective of what is happening. I would suggest explaining elements of your worship, if a testimony is happening or special music then we should draw attention to how it helps us point to God and not the person, it is not entertainment. If community is the core of the church identity, then worship is the thermometer of the spiritual healthiness of a church.
Have intentional outreach
The final part is that we must have the desire to reach out to the unchurched and lost within our target communities. In the modern world, a visit on a Monday night might not always be the best choice. I think text messages, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat are all great tools for reaching out to the prospects for our church. This even applies to the visitor card; we often use Facebook as the way to register a visitor while attending our church service. There are so many tools that can be used to connect to people but none of these will ever replace the relationship of a church member with a lost or unchurched friend, workmate or neighbor. These are the best mechanisms for connection, inviting and getting the word out about your church. Until every person within your church realizes they are the best outreach tool that God can use to bring lost people to Him then your church will never increase.
I pray that you work through these, pray through these and seek how they can be used within your ministry or church’s growth plans. God desire our churches to grow, we need to ensure that we are seeking this and doing so with a heart that is focused on Him.